Canada Place may get secondary honourary name “Komagata Maru Place”
PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday issued the following statement on the anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident:
“In the spring of 1914, the steamship Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver, carrying 376 hopeful newcomers looking for a better future in Canada.
“Those aboard – Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus of Punjabi origin – were met with discrimination, prejudice, and racism from immigration officials, who denied them food, water, and medical aid while docked at the harbour. Shamefully, after two months of confinement, the passengers aboard the ship were forced to return to India, where many were killed.
“In 2016, I delivered a formal apology in the House of Commons, on behalf of the federal government, to all those who were impacted by the Komagata Maru incident. What happened to the passengers of the Komagata Maru serves as a tragic reminder that historically, Canada was not always a welcoming place to newcomers. But today, thanks to the hard work of activists and minority communities, people from all over the world come to Canada to build a better life for themselves and their families. We now celebrate our diversity as one of our greatest strengths, and together, we continue to build a better country where everyone feels welcome and has every opportunity to succeed.
“Today, we honour the victims of the Komagata Maru incident and reflect on the many contributions that Canada’s South Asian communities have made – and continue to make – to our country. I call on all Canadians to stand up against racism and discrimination, and to embrace and celebrate the diversity that makes Canada the country we love.”
PREMIER David Eby said in a statement:
“Today marks the 109th anniversary of the steamship Komagata Maru dropping anchor in Vancouver harbour. The 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers sought a better life in Canada. They shared an ideal of creating a new life here for themselves and their families.
“When they should have been welcomed, they were instead met by hostility and prejudice. Canadian immigration officials refused to let them leave the boat. The passengers were confined to the ship for two months, during which supplies of food and even water were restricted, making conditions intolerable. After two months, the Komagata Maru departed for Asia under escort of a naval cruiser.
“Among the passengers were students, labourers and former soldiers. The lives they hoped to build in this land and their contributions to our society will go forever unknown.
“The Province of British Columbia formally apologized for its role in discriminating against the Komagata Maru passengers in 2008.
“Last year, the government funded the South Asian Canadian Legacy Project to raise awareness about the contributions of South Asian Canadians to our province’s culture, history and economy. Meanwhile, consultations are ongoing for the creation of a museum to share and preserve the stories, artifacts and documents of South Asian Canadians.
“Our government introduced an Anti-Racism Data Act last year, the first of its kind in Canada. It is yet another important step toward dismantling systemic racism as we build a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming province for everyone.”
PIERRE Poilievre, Leader of the Conservative Party and the Official Opposition, said in a statement:
“In the Spring of 1914, 376 brave Punjabis left their homes and boarded the ship Komagata Maru. Together, they embarked on a long journey to Canada to bring their skills and talents to our country and build a better life for themselves and their families.
“Shamefully, governments of the day had erected racist laws and regulations specifically designed to exclude South Asians from immigrating to Canada. Consequently, these ambitious individuals who sought freedom and opportunity on our shores were unjustly denied entry. The passengers of the Komagata Maru were instead forced to wait aboard their ship for two months before the government demanded that they turn around. Upon their return to India, political turmoil tragically led to the death and imprisonment of many of these passengers.
“On the anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru in our waters, Canadians reflect with sorrow on the disgraceful bigotry that motivated the decision to turn it away. Today, that decision and its consequences remain a dark moment in our history. However, we cannot claim to faithfully uphold our core principles of compassion and freedom if we do not acknowledge where we have failed to live up to these values in the past.
“Today, we take pride in the fact that Canada is now home to more than two million South Asians, and we honour the contributions that Punjabis have made to our country in the years since their countrymen faced such discrimination. As we reflect with profound regret on the Komagata Maru incident, let us recommit to making our country a place where people worldwide can come and find the hope and opportunity that has made our country so great.”
FEDERAL NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued the following statement:
“On May 23, 1914, the steamship Komagata Maru, carrying 376 passengers, mostly Sikh immigrants, arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, seeking a better life in Canada. However, they were denied entry due to racist immigration policies and subjected to imprisonment, persecution and discrimination. The ship was sent back to India: only 20 passengers were allowed to disembark, and 19 passengers were killed.
“The Komagata Maru incident serves as a stark reminder of the systemic racism and xenophobia that was alive and well in societies throughout the world. It is a painful memory that highlights the immense suffering and injustice inflicted upon those simply seeking an opportunity and a safe place to call home.
“As we remember this dark chapter in Canadian history, let’s today be a reminder of all of the lingering racism, discrimination and prejudice that still exists for newcomers to Canada and celebrate the vast diversity all immigrants bring to this country.”
MEANWHILE, Vancouver City staff has recommended that “the primary street Canada Place be provided a secondary honourary name “Komagata Maru Place” as an act of cultural redress for the City’s role in the Komagata Maru incident.”
The report notes: “The street Canada Place offers a direct view of Vancouver’s Harbour where the Komagata Maru ship was held for over two months with its passengers forced to stay onboard and where large crowds would gather daily to get a glimpse of the ship. It would offer residents and tourists arriving to Vancouver on foot, transit and by ship an opportunity to reflect as they learn more about this historic incident from the secondary name signage and from the nearby monument in Harbour Green Park.”
Also, that “Council recognize the importance of the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara (1866 West 2nd Avenue) to the South Asian community and direct staff to explore options for how to recognize the specific role it played during the Komagata Maru incident and its larger historical and cultural significance.”
The Council is expected to vote on this on May 30 with Raj Singh Toor, spokesperson for the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, addressing the members.